Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer
Title: Travelers in the Night Eps. 101E & 102E: A Dwarf Water Planet in Our Solar System & Rose’s First Asteroid
Organization: Travelers in The Night
Description: Today’s 2 topics:
- Our home would undoubtedly be known as the water planet to space aliens visiting our solar system. There is enough water to cover the entire Earth to a depth of more than 1.5 miles.
- Rose Matheny’s third solo night of asteroid hunting, using the University of Arizona Schmidt telescope, on Mt. Bigelow, was one of the longest of the year.
Bio: Dr. Al Grauer is currently an observing member of the Catalina Sky Survey Team at the University of Arizona. This group has discovered nearly half of the Earth approaching objects known to exist. He received a PhD in Physics in 1971 and has been an observational Astronomer for 43 years. He retired as a University Professor after 39 years of interacting with students. He has conducted research projects using telescopes in Arizona, Chile, Australia, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Georgia with funding from NSF and NASA.
He is noted as Co-discoverer of comet P/2010 TO20 Linear-Grauer, Discoverer of comet C/2009 U5 Grauer and has asteroid 18871 Grauer named for him.
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101E: A Dwarf Water Planet in Our Solar System
Our home would undoubtedly be known as the water planet to space aliens visiting our solar system. There is enough water to cover the entire Earth to a depth of more than 1.5 miles. Water is essential to life as we know it.
The dwarf planet Ceres may be a place in our solar system where life could have developed. At 590 miles in diameter it is the largest asteroid and only dwarf planet orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres appears to have rocky core surrounded by a thick mantle of water ice which accounts for up to 40% of its volume. How much of Ceres’s water, if any, is in liquid form remains to be seen. The mystery of Ceres has deepened by the recent discovery of water emissions coming from this small world.
For more than 200 years the dwarf planet Ceres has been little more than a moving point of light in the night sky. Unlike the Moon, Mars, Europa, and Vesta, Ceres has no meteorites which can be linked to it. Thus it remains a puzzle with few pieces. Answers to some of our questions are coming soon. After a journey of 8 years, the NASA Dawn Spacecraft will soon be in orbit about Ceres. What mysteries exist on this small world which has a surface area of 1.7 times that of the State of Alaska or 4 times that of the State of Texas. The instruments on board the Dawn Spacecraft will take high resolution images of the surface of Ceres and probe the interior to a depth of 10 feet or so.
The discovery of an ocean of liquid water under the ice on Ceres will certainly wet our appetite as to what might be there.
102E: Rose’s First Asteroid
Rose Matheny’s third solo night of asteroid hunting, using the University of Arizona Schmidt telescope, on Mt. Bigelow, was one of the longest of the year. She had prepared for this night over the past several months by mastering the unique set of observing skills required of an asteroid hunter with the NASA funded Catalina Sky Survey.
At this time of year the computers are restarted after 5PM and the dome is opened an hour later. After searching the night sky for about 6 hours a bright fast moving object caught Rose’s attention. She gave it the unofficial name of “zippy”. Over the next 20 hours this new object was observed by telescopes in Arizona, Japan, and France. These data were used to calculate this small asteroid’s orbit around the Sun and it was given the name 2014 YW14.
2014 YW14 is about 30 feet in diameter. Most of the time it is too faint to be observed by our telescopes. When Rose first spotted it, this asteroid was about 3 times the distance to the Moon from us and was traveling about 5 miles/sec towards her. It spends most of its time inside the Earth’s orbit and sometimes travels to midway between Venus and Mercury’s distance from the Sun. Its trip around the Sun takes about 250 days.
2014 YW14 can come as close as the Moon from planet Earth so we will be keeping an eye on it in the unlikely event that its path changes to be a danger to us. If it ever did enter the Earth’s atmosphere it would likely burn up at high altitude producing a supersonic boom.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
End of podcast:
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